As the weak job market rages on and the pool of available candidates becomes considerably larger, many talented jobseekers will most likely broaden their searches to include new fields. Those who have all their working experience in one industry need not limit their job search to that industry, because they can often transfer their skills to other areas of employment.
Transferring skills is a much more productive solution to the job problem than changing careers. It is also a more viable solution than trying to stay in an industry where prospects are unfavorable for finding new work.
Jobseekers may believe that because of long exposure in a specific industry, they must remain there even though the outlook is bleak for getting hired. That is a self-imposed limitation which may consign the person to an excessively depleted job market.
If individuals look at their background from the functional standpoint, a much broader range of opportunities may be opened up. Virtually any functional-area skills are transferable among industries.
For example, a stockbroker is essentially a salesperson. He does not have to limit his job prospecting to financial services, because sales skills are in demand throughout business and industry. An accountant who works in the steel industry may consider himself a ‘steel person’ first, but the fact is accountants are needed by all businesses and industries. The same applies to bookkeeping, data processing, manufacturing, marketing and any number of other skills.
Employers, for their part, are looking for people with experience, and will regard the industry switcher as experienced in that line of work, although not in the particular industry. The industry switcher will be welcomed as an expert who can apply that expertise to the new employer’s product line, whatever it may be.
Granted, some degree of adjustment and reorientation is required when one changes industries, but there should be no insurmountable problems. The jobseeker is staying in his or her area of expertise and is not trying to do something completely different.
The thing to avoid is the trap of ‘either-or’ thinking where the person is prepared to relinquish previous responsibilities, but does not see any alternative other than a career change.
Individuals who get discharged often feel that they were unchallenged, unsuccessful or unappreciated in their last job. Because of an impression distorted by problems in their prior work environment, these people may be inclined to reject their former responsibilities.
The person who feels that, "I never want to do that again," runs the risk of nullifying their most saleable commodity, their expertise. Instead of pinpointing particular circumstances as the target for blame, the industry may be condemned along with job-related conditions. Rejection of that kind may lead to extreme avoidance in which the person not only disavows the former industry but former job functions as well. The individual mainly desires something which is unassociated with what went before.
Any employment decision which is formulated from only a ‘black or white’ perspective can lead to a poor job choice. The premise, "There is nothing for me here," may seem to lead to only one or two paths – to stay or to go – when many other options exist.
Some jobseekers may feel that they should pursue a drastic alternative to what was done previously. They may be attracted to exotic options, prospects which may seem considerably more colorful and glamorous than what they have been accustomed to doing. With an attitude that "farther fields are greener," the jobseeker may be swayed by emotional considerations rather than a logical appraisal of how fertile those other fields may actually be.
Costly Career Changes
For some jobseekers, a 180-degree career switch may seem attractive. Being released from a position may seem to afford the opportunity to "do what I’ve always wanted." However, jumping at jobs which are unrelated to what the individual has done may not only be unreasonable, but can ensure a long and disappointing employment campaign. Such a jobseeker is proceeding from an untenable position, competing against others who are already experienced in that area.
From the employer’s standpoint, there may be little contest between the jobseeker who has the desired experience and the one who only has aspirations. The company seeking a sales manager is not likely to hire someone with the background of manufacturing manager to fill that position. Since any business is run with an eye toward obtaining people with the right skills, the jobseeker’s only real currency in the marketplace is based on his or her experience.
From a monetary standpoint, changing careers usually results in a dramatic salary loss of 20 to 50 percent. It will probably take the career changer five years or more to equal his or her last salary.
That is why careful consideration of the options is required. At my outplacement consultancy, our experience has shown that individuals are far better off in the long run to capitalize on their basic experience and expertise by either staying within the primary industry or transferring skills to another industry.